Dear Author Enabler,
What is your opinion of self-publishing through Amazon.com? I have heard good things about it and really nothing bad, but few things in life are all good. What do you think? I have never written or published a book before, but I am ready to give it a try.
Charleston, West Virginia
Self-publishing is somewhat complicated. There are several models, and the one you choose depends on your goals for the book, your energy and your finances.
One upside to Amazon’s self-publishing program, CreateSpace, is that books are printed only when they are ordered; this is called print on demand (POD), and it means you are not required to buy a truckload of books up front that might wind up filling your garage. Keep in mind, though, that CreateSpace is a subsidy press, which means that they will take a cut.
There are other choices, of course. Lightning Source is one that many experienced self-publishers use, and a newer entry is IngramSpark. Both are reputable and produce quality books. There are similarities and differences between them, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Don’t jump on the CreateSpace bandwagon until you have taken the time to compare at least these three choices side by side.
You might also consider going the traditional route—which means first getting an agent (a task in itself) who will find a publisher for your book, or approaching a publisher directly with your work. It is no small feat to successfully publish your own book. Much of the hardest work comes after the book is written, designed and printed (or available as an eBook): including marketing, publicity, distribution and sales. It’s a ton of work, and you need to think about whether self-publishing is the best way to go. Publishers have systems in place and experienced professionals for all of these tasks. And although publishing with Amazon would mean that you are with the biggest book retailer out there, millions of books are currently available on Amazon—with more added every day. What will make yours stand out? And how will your book get into bookstores or other retailers who may not be very fond of Amazon?
I strongly recommend doing a significant amount of research before settling on a plan. Good luck.
THE SECOND STEP
Dear Author Enabler,
I have a question about publishing a book. I wrote a novel, but I have no clue of what to do next. Please, I need help.
Mayfield, New York
Congratulations on your manuscript! Take yourself to dinner! In Paris! Or closer to home. I don’t think that you should immediately start submitting your work to agents, though; you and your novel are not ready for that step. The best thing you can do is to find a writing colleague or get into a writing group with some other aspiring writers who will give you positive, truthful feedback. Another option is to attend a creative writing class and share your work there. A first draft is just that—it needs shaping and editing, which should be your next step.
Get ready because November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, in which thousands of people will produce a novel in one month’s time. Some people will band together and write with other NaNoWriMo participants. Some will write alone. But everyone will write their brains out, and there will be a fabulous online community offering support along the way.
The goal is to write at least 50,000 words of fiction by midnight, November 30. Participants can upload their novel for official verification, get added to the NaNoWriMo Winner’s Page and receive a certificate. But the main thing is to have participated in a wild and zany creative adventure—and to have completed a novel. Visit nanowrimo.org to learn more.
Send your questions about writing and publishing to firstname.lastname@example.org.